We’ll gnaw some more meat off the bones of two games, one to come, one past:
It’s too bad this occurs at the tail end of fall breaks for students, although reports are many are coming back early.
It may be worth the trip.
This shapes up to be one of the best Football Championship Subdivision matchups to be played at Estes Stadium since the University of Central Arkansas became a Southland Conference member four years ago. It shapes up as potentially one of the most entertaining games to be played at UCA in a long time. Remember, UCA won the game 49-41 a year ago when the Lumberjacks were still trying to put pieces together and would only win four games. Most of that team is back plus more.
The Lumberjacks have the top scoring offense among FCS teams in the country. That 47.2 points-per-game average may be somewhat skewered by a 92-0 victory over a helpless, non-scholarship team in Texas College that reportedly had no tackling skills.
"Still, I’m not sure we can score 92 points against air," UCA coach Clint Conque said.
The interesting part is Stephen F. Austin has one of the nation’s top offensive units but is much improved on defense. UCA has one of the nation’s top defensive units, but its offense isn’t shoddy. So far, both teams have displayed some of the best special teams in NCAA FCS.
In a nutshell, there will be gamebreakers and big-play specialists all over the field tonight.
"This will be the best team we have played all year, including Hawaii and Western Kentucky," Conque said.
"Playing Central Arkansas looks like playing McNeese State all over again," said SFA coach J.C. Harper, whose team recorded a signature victory over McNeese State last week.
One question will be how SFA, which has been at the bottom of the standings in recent years, will respond to another big game.
"It’s a different deal for us because we haven’t been in this situation before," Harper said. "Two years ago, we didn’t win a game. Last year, we won four. We’ve already won four this year, and now it seems this situation about big games in brought up every week. Guess they’re all big games now."
Each week, on the SLC coaches weekly teleconference, coaches have marveled with the energy, the spunk and the love of the game with which the SFA players play. Almost every coach said the Lumberjacks are one of the most fun teams to watch on video.
"I’ve enjoyed watching those guys play," Conque said. "They are fun to watch. They are just flying around out there having fun and playing at a whole ‘nother level."
Over the past three years, the Bears have been one of the most fun teams to watch in the Southland.
So, it should be one heck of an evening of entertainment whether one is watching it in person or on Southland TV.
It’s the perfect invigorating follow-up to the Arkansas/Florida game, whether the Hogs win or lose.
Mayflower helped KARK (Channel 4) continue to chart new territory Thursday night with its high school telecast. The Eagles’ game against Harding Academy was the first ever telecast from Patrick Stadium.
Mayflower officials had the table set nicely.
The field was green and beautiful, belying from on high the soggy nature underneath. Mayflower coaches had painted a appealing, purple-and-white checkboard in the end zone, a tedious project they actually had to do twice because of rain.
The trees on the hillside surrounding the stadium had their leaves turning and it provided a nice backdrop.
The Mayflower coaches surrendered their booth in the press box to the ground-breaking KARK and Fearless Friday telecast.
"This was as nice of setup as we’ve had for these games," said veteran broadcaster Dave Woodman, who handles the play by play.
Members of the Mayflower choir did a wonderful a capella version of the Star-Spangled Banner before the game. KARK morning news anchor Mallory Hardin handled the opening coin toss duties and presented Mayflower a $500 check for hosting the game.
Everything was proceeding perfectly, then ...
Kickoff and an epidemic of Murphy’s Law hit the Eagles.
The Wildcats intercepted Mayflower on the Eagles’ first two possessions, one that led to a touchdown and one that resulted in an easy touchdown. Harding Academy recovered a Mayflower fumble and drove for another touchdown to take a 21-0 lead in fewer than nine minutes of play.
A 52-yard punt late in the half pinned the Wildcats on their 3. The Wildcats methodically drove to their 20, then burned the Eagle secondary with a 46-yard pass play. With the Eagle defense playing soft and thinking pass with 15 seconds to go, Harding Academy quarterback Seth Keese wove through the defense untouched on an option that put Mayflower down 28-0 at the half. After the Eagles botched an onside kick attempt at the start of the second half, the Wildcats put the mercy rule in effect quickly with another touchdown and a crushing, 35-0 advantage on the way to the 42-6 victory.
Count ‘em: Two interceptions (one for a touchdown), a lost fumble, a breakdown in coverage, busted assignments on an option play and a poorly executed onside kick. Any one or two against a team such as Harding Academy is fatal. All of them produces an almost impossible hole to try to crawl out.
Mayflower defeated Harding Academy last year in Searcy on the way to a conference title. The Wildcats remembered, came out fiery from the beginning and were the most focused and passionate team Thursday night.
Too bad for the Eagles it was on TV.
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 505-1235 or firstname.lastname@example.org)